Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Five Principles for Vertical Merger Enforcement Policy
Jonathan B. Baker, American University - Washington College of Law, Nancy L. Rose, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Steven C. Salop, Georgetown University Law Center, Fiona M. Scott Morton, Yale School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), offer Five Principles for Vertical Merger Enforcement Policy.
Abstract: There seems to be consensus that the Department of Justice’s 1984 Vertical Merger Guidelines do not reflect either modern theoretical and empirical economic analysis or current agency enforcement policy. Yet widely divergent views of preferred enforcement policies have been expressed among agency enforcers and commentators. Based on our review of the relevant economic literature and our experience analyzing vertical mergers, we recommend that the enforcement agencies adopt five principles: (i) The agencies should consider and investigate the full range of potential anticompetitive harms when evaluating vertical mergers; (ii) The agencies should decline to presume that vertical mergers benefit competition on balance in the oligopoly markets that typically prompt agency review, nor set a higher evidentiary standard based on such a presumption; (iii) The agencies should evaluate claimed efficiencies resulting from vertical mergers as carefully and critically as they evaluate claimed efficiencies resulting from horizontal mergers, and require the merging parties to show that the efficiencies are verifiable, merger-specific and sufficient to reverse the potential anticompetitive effects; (iv) The agencies should decline to adopt a safe harbor for vertical mergers, even if rebuttable, except perhaps when both firms compete in unconcentrated markets; (v) The agencies should consider adopting rebuttable anticompetitive presumptions that a vertical merger harms competition when certain factual predicates are satisfied. We do not intend these presumptions to describe all the ways by which vertical mergers can harm competition, so the agencies should continue to investigate vertical mergers that raise concerns about input and customer foreclosure, loss of a disruptive or maverick firm, evasion of rate regulation or other threats to competition, even if the specific factual predicates of the presumptions are not satisfied.